|© UNICEF DRC/2009/Sawadogo|
|UNICEF’s Chief of HIV and AIDS Jimmy Kolker visited the capital of DR Congo, Kinshasa, and saw firsthand efforts by UNICEF and its partners to help children affected by or living with HIV and AIDS.|
KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 6 April 2009 – Already suffering from a humanitarian crisis that has led to massive death and displacement since the 1990s, DR Congo now faces another major challenge: Today, up to half a million people here are living with HIV – and as many as 52,000 of them are children.
To help address the challenge, UNICEF Chief of HIV and AIDS Jimmy Kolker recently visited the capital of DR Congo, Kinshasa. The aim of the visit was to reiterate UNICEF’s commitment to helping the country meet its accelerated child survival and development goals.
High on the agenda was how to best address HIV and AIDS challenges relating to the so-called 4 ‘P’s: prevention of mother-to-child transmission (also known as PMTCT); paediatric treatment; preventing infection among adolescents; and protecting and caring for children affected by the disease.
During a visit to the poorest neighbourhood in Kinshasa, UNICEF’s positive impact on foster-family coping mechanisms and the lives of children affected by HIV and AIDS was evident.
UNICEF and its partner Caritas are promoting a community-driven, family-centred approach to care for this disenfranchised population, and are making efforts to keep vulnerable children in school. The partnership offers direct support to 110,000 orphans and vulnerable children; it provides local schools with desks, exercise books and other educational materials.
Similar initiatives with local clinics are ensuring that orphans and vulnerable children receive health care.
“With UNICEF’s leadership, results for children can be increased in DRC – especially improved coverage for PMTCT and paediatric treatment,” explained Mr. Kolker. “We also see opportunities for better targeting of prevention efforts for youth, and building on the excellent model already in place for reaching orphans and vulnerable children.”
Focus on women and children
While in Kinshasa, Mr. Kolker visited projects related to each of the 4 ‘P’s. Among them was the country’s only one-stop paediatric care and treatment site, where children living with HIV receive a full range of services.
“One of UNICEF’s major achievements in DRC,” said Mr. Kolker, “has been to put women and children infected and affected by HIV and AIDS back on the national agenda.”
Mr. Kolker also met with key government officials, as well as non-governmental partners and donors, to emphasize the need for collaborative action for mothers and children affected by HIV and AIDS. His trip laid the groundwork for a UNICEF-led Inter-Agency Task Team joint mission to DR Congo on improving PMTCT services.
Protecting orphans and vulnerable children in the DR Congo